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Minister: Stock up on medical supplies

Thursday, July 12, 2018

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Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh says that every person suffering from a chronic disease must have a week’s supply of medication at their home during the hurricane season.

Responding to the lengthy time it took patients to receive medical help following last year’s floods caused by Tropical Storm Bret and the Divali rains, Deyalsingh said it was an internationally recognised protocol that chronic illness patients follow.

He was speaking on the public health sector’s readiness to respond to possible disaster during an inter-GoKEVONvernmental agency media conference on the State’s readiness for the 2018 hurricane season.

There were several complaints from residents in the Penal, Debe and Mayaro communities last year as flood waters left hundreds marooned for days. For the elderly and ill, it took up to a week before first responders could reach to their homes or they could leave their homes for treatment at a health facility.

“The message is that every individual with a chronic disease such as diabetes or hypertension should make it their personal responsibility to have a supply of medication for at least a week… until the responders can come and until you can get to a healthcare facility,” Deyalsingh said.

He said just like people are advised to keep important documents in a plastic bag during a storm, food, water and medication should be in stock.

But in emergency medical cases during or in the aftermath of the hurricane or storm, Deyalsingh said it was his hope that first responders with dinghies would bring patients to a designated location where an ambulance could take them to a healthcare facility as soon as possible.

He said the ministry would have to rely on other agencies to get the people out of their homes and bring them to higher ground.

Dinghies were not available during last year’s flood, however, OPDM head Neville Wint said the Defence Force and Fire Service are in possession of dinghies to reach those trapped in their homes.

He said the use of the dinghies would be spread across the islands based on the impact of a flood. Wint said that the safety of the first responders will be assessed before deployment so there would be times when the response is delayed, based on the resources and conditions.

Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry of Health, Dr Roshan Parasram said that a chief technical disaster coordinator was recruited by the Ministry last year and has revamped the disaster preparedness plan for the public health sector.

This ensures that all facilities are up and running during adverse weather events. Parasram recalled that in 2017, Toco villagers were cut off due to fallen trees and landslide and lessons were learned for that incident. He said an air ambulance service is a possibility and is being looked at in Eric Williams Medical Science Complex where there is a heliport.

With the San Fernando and Port-of-Spain General Hospitals still suffering the occasional overcrowding, Parasram said that in preparation for a storm or hurricane, elective surgeries would be postponed to accommodate emergency cases.

Provisions are also in place to pay overtime to staff who may be required to work extra hours. Generators at facilities are being looked at while a Smart Hospital’s initiative, operated by solar energy, is also being contemplated.

Deyalsingh said that all services that are not critical will be converted to deal with emergencies.

“We think we’re in a very good place health wise to respond to any natural event,” the minister said.


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